Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Friday, November 16, 2012
After throwing the most lavish "Media Preview Party" last night this guy has ever seen (valet! spotlights! red carpet! swag bags! "celebrities!"), Georgetown Cupcake will officially open in Los Angeles to the public on Saturday at noon. This will be the first west coast and fifth location overall of the cupcakery, which rose to D.C. fame due to both their quality sweets and TLC show, "DC Cupcakes." To celebrate the grand opening Saturday, Georgetown Cupcake will be giving out ONE FREE CUPCAKE PER PERSON.
Are they any good, you ask? Two years ago I reviewed a three day-old box shipped in from the nation's capital. Even under those conditions I left highly impressed. Last night, trying the cupcakes fresh for the first time, I found mostly hits (Pumpkin Spice with maple-infused cream cheese frosting) with one or two misses (Strawberry). Overall, a very positive sampling. Add to the fact that they offer a whopping sixteen daily flavors and tons of holiday special cupcakes like Butterscotch Pudding and Chocolate Egg Nog, it's certainly a worthy addition to the LA cupcake scene.
However, with a cupcake bakery over-saturation in Los Angeles already and the recent general malaise regarding the tiny cakes, it will be very interesting to track the bakery's opening. They may woo us with "Josie & the Pussycat"-like swanky premieres and serve some delicious cupcakes, yet it remains to be seen whether LA is ready to embrace another cupcakery.
143 S. Robertson Blvd, LA.
Opens Saturday at noon.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Mere hours prior to their grand opening, the kind people at Umami Restaurant Group graciously invited U.E. to sample the fare at their brand spanking new U-Mini in Westwood. Designed as a fast casual version of the ever popular and expanding Umami Burger franchise, U-Mini is viewed as the next notch on URG's belt and is actually located adjacent to another Umami-run fast casual joint, the uber-popular 800 Degrees, a.k.a. "the Chipotle of pizza." The Westwood U-Mini stands not simply as the first in what appears to be multiple locations, but also as a test kitchen for all Umami restaurants. New special burgers will be tested out here first before being finding their way on the other menus.
Since I hardly find it reasonable to justly review a restaurant on a first visit, let alone amidst the chaos that comes with pre-opening lunch, the following merely serves as my First Thoughts. Check back in a few weeks or a month or so for a full report on U-Mini.
|All placed orders are tracked on a flat screen.|
|Salted Caramel Shake.|
|Dads Burger porn view.|
|Mushroom Burger porn view.|
U-Mini has four burgers on the menu - all of them new to the URG. I tried the Dads Burger and the Mushroom Burger. The remaining two burgers are the ALT Burger (crushed avocado, butter lettuce, savory onions, slow-roasted tomato, house American cheese) and the Vintage Burger (bread and butter pickle slices, minced onion, butter lettuce, mustard, Umami ketchup and house cheddar cheese), an homage to McDonald's. Unlike these two burgers and the Dads Burger, the Mushroom Burger (shitake veggie patty, slow-roasted tomato, butter lettuce) has no meat at all and serves as the restaurant's vegetarian alternative. I wanted to give it a try because I don't think I've ever had a good fast casual veggie burger. U-Mini certainly makes a gallant effort to change that with the Mushroom Burger, but I still think they may end up just a tad short. Comprised almost completely of shitake mushrooms, the patty tastes too shitake mushroom-y. I think a blend heavier on the other vegetables in the patty may lead to a slightly more balanced patty in taste - and in texture. As for Dads Burger, I was very pleased with what will probably be U-Mini's signature dish. Topped with savory onions, bread and butter pickle slices and house cheddar, I challenge each and every one of you to find a higher quality burger in Los Angeles -- with housemade cheddar no less! -- for the $5.85 pricepoint. With a nice crust on the patty, a slight toast on the Umami-branded bun, well-cooked onions and the powerful (but not too powerful) cheddar taste, this is a quality fast-whatever burger.
IN CONCLUSION: Clearly Umami Restaurant Group's plan for U-Mini is to do for burgers what their 800 Degrees is doing across the street with pizza. They want U-Mini to serve the highest quality burgers, fries and shakes... for the (low) pricepoint. Based on first impressions alone, I found them to be generally successful at accomplishing this goal. UCLA students and local businesses are probably going to go gaga over this place. The true question remains though: will non-Westwooders flock there? It may not even matter as drunk college kids (myself previously included) can consume ungodly amounts of food. Yet, I think part of the astounding 800 Degrees success comes not just from locals, but from other Los Angelenos making the trek there - or, at the very least, ensuring every time they're in the area, stopping in. With one of the few Westside In 'n Outs just up the street, will people choose U-Mini instead? One sip of the Salted Caramel shake and one bite of the Dads Burger may make them do just that.
1131 Westwood Blvd, Westwood
Open 11 am - midnight daily
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Due to the recent success of live tweeting the Coffee Bean $1 Holiday Drink Day and the fact that I spend almost every day in coffeeshops overhearing people say some really stupid shit, I've decided to add a hopefully frequent set of posts to the blog. They will be called Coffeeshop Chatterbox and they will simply recite an overheard conversation over java. This is the first entry.
Location: Santa Monica coffeeshop (*note: not the one in the picture above)
Time: 12:41 pm
Setting: All late morning and early afternoon the shaved head, fancy facial haired guy two seats down from me has desperately attempted to incite conversation with the semi-cute Asian girl in a semi-short white skirt in between the two of us. She finally bit. And this is a sample of their conversation.
Guy - "I do most of my shopping at Trader Joe's."
Girl - "I only do Farmer's Markets."
Guy - "You ever been to the Farmer's Market over there on Wednesday?"
Girl - "Yeah, Tuesday's better."
Guy - "Tuesday's better?"
Girl - "Yeah. WAY better."
Guy - "Even for ginger?"
Girl - "I LOVE ginger."
Guy - "So do I! I have it in everything."
Girl - "Me too. Well, sorta. I used to have ginger every day at work..."
Girl glances away momentarily, almost to sigh. It appears she's now jobless.
Guy - "Really?"
Girl - "Water and lemon and ginger. Every morning."
Guy - "I love ginger. It's so versatile. You should see my kitchen, ginger everywhere."
Girl - "Ahh, that's so funny."
Girl pretends to return to her "work" on her computer that she clearly doesn't have to do.
Analysis: The Guy followed up this dialogue by telling, I shit you not, multiple Asian jokes. Thus, I have no fears whatsoever these two will de-sanitize the bathroom.
Monday, November 12, 2012
Umami Restaurant Group, overseers of Umamicatessen, Red Medicine and a whopping TWELVE SoCal Umami Burgers (plus a San Francisco location and soon a Manhattan spot as well), will launch their latest concept, U-Mini, this Wednesday at noon in Westwood. Located across the street from another fast casual Umami-run restaurant, 800 Degrees pizzeria, U-Mini will serve as a walk up and order little brother to Umami and will feature an all new menu of burgers, fries and shakes - in smaller portions at smaller price-points.
With the plan for the inaugural U-Mini to serve as "a testing ground for new recipes and service technology," as the press release reads, much like the Westwood 800 Degrees does, UCLA students are quickly becoming the luckiest collegiate culinary lab rats in town.
((Note: Umami has invited UE to sample the U-Mini foodstuffs on opening day. Will hopefully have a post up on the site by Thursday))
U-Mini opens Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at noon.
1131 Westwood Avenue, Westwood.
Contrary to a myriad of online reports, Hole in the Wall Burger Joint, is not moving to Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade after all. Rather, the West L.A. home to some of LA's best beef and turkey burgers plans to relocate to another Santa Monica spot - 2200 Colorado Avenue. The new location will open the first week of January. Fret not, Westside burger aficionados, the current location will continue to sling burgers until then. And while many may view the new location as a bit random and less than ideal, I would argue the contrary. The Yahoo/MTV/DMV area is crawling with lunch goers during the week and the weekends appear primed to be fruitful in the near future with the ongoing Metro construction nearby. Also major freaking bonus: the new Hole in the Wall will come with free two hour parking (parking was a major problem at the original location). Furthermore, the sparkly new Colorado Ave location will expand the HitW menu to include sandwiches, desserts and more sides.
The West Hollywood location will remain at its current stomping grounds.
The full reasoning behind the move and more can be found in the letter below from store owners Chef Bill & Susan posted recently on their website:
Friday, November 9, 2012
Address: 8321 Lincoln Blvd, LA (Westchester/LAX)
The Kick Ass Thing: Yakiniku Sando
Price: $8.95 (sandwich) + $1.00 (cheese) + $2.75 (fries) = $12.70
Thoughts: Humble Potato, a new spot on Lincoln just past Loyola Marymount in LAX-adjacent Westchester, advertises itself as "American comfort, Japanese kick." While it is certainly not the first LA restaurant post-Roy Choi to mimic the chef's amalgamation of classic fast food with Asian influences, it certainly stands as one of the better examples of the trend. While the restaurant's signature Hambaga will certainly garner most of the attention and accolades, I beg you to not overlook Humble Potato's version of the Philly cheesesteak, the Yakiniku Sando. This sandwich will perfectly fulfill your sweaty cheesesteak withdrawals - and do it thrice the flavor of the normal sub-standard LA versions. Fresh rib-eye beef (compared to the normal frozen used for most 'steaks) marinated with housemade Yakiniku sauce (Japanese soy sauce-based BBQ sauce), the flavor-packed sandwich comes topped with grilled onions, scallion and shichimi pepper, all in between a "garlic butter roll." For an extra dollar I added provolone cheese because, well, I'm a glutton and the mere thought of a cheesesteak sans cheese gives me a headache. I also got a side of fries, which were decent, but not exemplary. The accompanying HP dipping sauce was good though. As for the cheesesteak, is it LA's best cheesesteak? No. But is it an incredibly tasty new contender to the throne? Absolutely.
Awesome: Finally there's an above average spot not named In 'n Out to stop for a quick bite on the way to LAX.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
M Street Kitchen's sort of a head scratcher. Serving good, but certainly not great food, at fair but certainly not exemplary pricepoints, it is sometimes hard to decipher why Santa Monicans perpetually pack the place. Weekend breakfast and dinner walk-ups sometimes are even greeted with a 45-minute wait - and get this: they actually wait it out!
While I do not quite understand the popularity with the sit down portion of the restaurant, I cannot say a negative word about their bakery in the back (or in the front, depending on how you approach the restaurant). Consistently filled to the brim with bountifully sized cookies and brownies, it is hard to go wrong with any of the pastry case's buttery delectables. It is, however, the morning pastries, specifically the muffins, that rise above the pack though. Softball-sized (plus some), the muffins come in a variety of everyday flavors like Blueberry, Blackberry Bran and Chocolate Chip With Orange Glaze (pictured above) and also in a select "Muffin of the Day" flavor. Decadent and fresh, these are top notch muffins.
They're even better when they only cost a dollar. Which is every day. Well, after 3 pm at least. Yep, every day after 3 pm, M Street offers all remaining muffins in the pastry case for only $1. No limit. I often find myself at a nearby coffee shop around that time and take a quick stroll over. There's usually plenty to choose from and it isn't abnormal for me to buy a few and store them away in the freezer. Then when I'm craving a sweet morning treat (which, let's be honest, is almost ALWAYS) a few days later, I pop the muffin in the mircrowave for 30 seconds or so and there I have a filling, delicious, fresh muffin for breakfast. And it only cost me one smackaroo.
((Note: Please leave me one.))